Republic of Iceland Seventy Years Old

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Culture

Republic of Iceland Seventy Years Old

By Alëx Elliott

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Today is June 17, Iceland’s national day. It is a public holiday and one of the biggest festival days of the year.

There are many official and unofficial events in practically every city, town and tiny village across Iceland. A parade featuring a brass band, the scouts and police in ceremonial uniform are widespread; as are speeches by local officials and a reading by Fjallkonan – the mountain woman. The mountain woman wears an ornate version of the Icelandic national costume, with gold trimmings. Symbolically, she is the spirit of the nation.

In Reykjavík, the ceremony takes place on Austurvöllur Square; where a speech is given by the Prime Minister, and all ambassadors and other diplomats gather. The event is broadcast live and is open to the public (with the exception of the mass in Dómkirkjan cathedral).

Later in the day it is common to find free concerts, public barbecues, displays and exhibitions, and general outdoor merriment.

Luckily the forecast for today is excellent, with temperatures in excess of 20°C forecast in some places.

June 17 is the day in 1944 on which Iceland declared its full independence from the Danish crown, following a landslide referendum result. Iceland unilaterally held its independence referendum whilst under Allied occupation during the Second World War, and while Denmark was itself under Nazi German occupation. Today marks precisely seventy years since the Republic of Iceland was proclaimed. June 17 is also the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson (1811-1879), Iceland’s most famous hero of the 19th Century independence movement. The choice of June 17 was therefore no coincidence.

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